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Florida Senate Passes New Legislature to Fix Patient Brokering Act

Attorney Amanda I. ForbesBy Amanda I. Forbes, J.D.

A new act (SB 1120) was recently passed by the Florida Senate and enacted on June 18, 2020, with an effective date of July 1, 2020. SB1120 restored the Florida Patient Brokering Act to its original wording to correct a big glitch made when the Legislature previously amended it. On June 27, 2019, there was an amendment enacted by the Florida Legislature that changed the Florida Patient Brokering Act, Section 817.505, Florida Statutes. It became effective on July 1, 2019. The amendment changed Section 817.505(3)(a), Florida Statutes.

The original wording of the statute stated:

(3) This section shall not apply to the following payment practices:
(a) Any discount, payment, waiver of payment,
or payment practice not prohibited
by 42 U.S.C. s. 1320a-7b(b) or
regulations promulgated thereunder.”

Section 817.503(3)(a). (Emphasis added).

The new amendment to the Florida Patient Brokering Act stated:

(3) This section shall not apply to the following payment practices:
(a) Any discount, payment, waiver of
payment, or payment practice expressly
authorized by” 42 U.S.C. s. 1320a-7b(b)(3) or
regulations adopted thereunder.”

Section 817.505(3)(a). (Emphasis added)

This Federal law exemption had previously been relied on to avoid the Florida statute’s criminal prohibitions, particularly, by health law attorneys advising their clients on proposed business ventures. The most immediate problem with the amendment was that there are no “discounts, payments waivers of payment or payment practices” that are “specifically approved” by the federal statute.

Rather than provide clarification, the amendment only created confusion. The Federal Anti-Kickback Statute (42 U.S.C. Section 1320a-7b(b)) does not “expressly authorize” any exception or safe harbor. The amended language caused confusion regarding whether an arrangement must qualify for safe harbor protection under the Federal anti-kickback statute in order to be legal under Florida law. Therefore, the amendment went from a state law that was similar to and cohesive with the federal statute to one which was much stricter than the federal law and prohibited many current business arrangements.

When there is no safe harbor, the arrangement is evaluated by its intent. The Florida Fourth District Court of Appeal recently confirmed that the Patient Brokering Act is a “general intent” statute. This means that an individual only needs to intend to commit the act prohibited by the statute (e.g. paying for referrals), as opposed to intending to specifically violate the Patient Brokering Act. See State v. Kigar, 279 So. 3d 217 (Fla. 4th DCA 2019)

The bill (SB1120) was passed by the Florida Senate and enacted on June 19, 2020, with an effective date of July 1, 2020. SB1120 restored the Florida Patient Brokering Act to its original wording.

View the bill in full here.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Health Care Professionals and Providers.

At the Health Law Firm, we provide legal services for all health care providers and professionals. This includes physicians, nurses, dentists, psychologists, psychiatrists, mental health counselors, home health agencies, hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers, pain management clinics, nursing homes, and any other healthcare provider. It also includes medical students, resident physicians, and fellows, as well as medical school professors and clinical staff. We represent health facilities, individuals, groups, and institutions in contracts, sales, mergers, and acquisitions. The lawyers of The Health Law Firm are experienced in complex litigation and both formal and informal administrative hearings. We also represent physicians accused of wrongdoing, patient complaints, and in Department of Health investigations.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call our office at (407) 331-6620 or toll-free at (888) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.ThehealthLawFirm.com

About the Author: Amanda I. Forbes, practices health law with The Health Law Firm in its Altamonte Springs, Florida, office. Its main office is in Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com. The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave. Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620 or toll-free: (888) 331-6620.

KeyWords: Representation for healthcare professionals, representation for healthcare compliance, representation for healthcare facilities, healthcare facility defense lawyer, healthcare compliance defense attorney, healthcare license defense attorney, Complex Healthcare Litigation, complex healthcare litigation defense lawyer, Complex Business Litigation, Complex Commercial Litigation, Class Action Litigation, medical regulatory defense lawyer, reviews of The Health Law Firm, The Health Law Firm attorney reviews

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2020 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Emotional Support Animals and Protecting Your License, Pitfalls and Tips, Part 2 of 2

Amanda I. Forbes, J.D.By Amanda I. Forbes, J.D.; and George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified in Health Law

This is part 2 of 2 in a blog series regarding Emotional Support Animals (ESA) support letters being prepared by counselors and therapists. There are serious pitfalls that exist for the unwary mental health professional and, in part 1, we provided a number of tips on how to avoid these. Click here to read part 1.

The ACA has identified specific potential risks to animals, clients, the public, and counselors which everyone involved in this area of practice should be familiar with.

Potential Risks to Animals:

1. Neglect or other abuse; poor mental health on the part of the client may prevent adequate animal care or may promote neglect or abuse.

2. Undue stress may occur to the animal from constant work during accompaniment, including being placed in stressful environments.

3. The animal may suffer undue stress from being handled by a person who does not have specialized training.

4. The animal may suffer an illness, undue stress, or injury from public interactions.

Possible Risks to Clients:

1. Inadequate treatment of a mental health disorder.

2. Injury or property damage from an inadequately trained or socialized animal.

3. Zoonotic infection or disease.

4. Animal allergies in the client, the client’s family, and the client’s associates.

5. Potential fraud or legal concerns if an ESA is misrepresented as a service animal.

6. Financial and emotional burdens due to potential behavior problems associated with inadequately trained and socialized companion animals.

7. Misconception that a relationship with an ESA replaces or substitutes for professional mental health care or human relationships (especially the latter).

Potential Risk to the Public:

1. Injury or emotional damage from inadequately trained animals.

2. Untrained or improperly socialized animals may be more likely to be stressed out or aggressive in public.

3. Unsocialized animals may be disruptive and interfere with normal activities such as group functions, public travel, public dining.

4. Maladaptive interactions with other animals (especially toward service animals)

5. Zoonotic infection or disease from animals.

6. Animal allergies and phobias (yes, some regular people have phobias against dogs, cats, snakes, weasels, alligators, and monkeys).

7. They may contribute to public skepticism, which hurts those with valid helper animals (e.g., someone who has a full-size alligator that she claims is her emotional support animal and takes it everywhere she goes).

8. The more unsuitable the animal, the greater the risk (i.e., exotic pet, undomesticated or wild animal).

9. When more fraudulent animals have greater public access, the more public risk is incurred.

Risks to the Counselor Who Certifies or Approves an Emotional Support Animal:

1. Liability for adverse client outcomes due to inadequate or substandard treatment.
2. Potential provider role conflicts: Forensic v. Counseling.
3. Potential liability for injury/illness caused by the animal to the client or others.
4. Potential charges of fraud if an inadequate evaluation is done to demonstrate the need for the animal, or if performed in the absence of actual supporting facts, or if performed for a fake client who is just making up everything.
5. Disciplinary action taken against your professional license by your licensing board for any of the above.
6. Ethical considerations for inadequate education about ESAs and their role in comprehensive treatment. Potential to be called to testify if the ESA is challenged or if an incident occurs.

Click here for more information.

An additional potential risk that the ACA did not address was the possibility of disciplinary action against your license by your professional board. The reasons for such an action could possibly be from a failure to establish a proper client relationship prior to writing an ESA recommendation letter. It is important to keep these potential risks in mind when determining whether to write an ESA recommendation letter.

Don’t forget to read part 1 of this blog series for more information.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced Investigations of Mental Health Counselors, Psychologists, Social Workers, and Family Therapists.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to mental health counselors, psychologists, social workers, and family therapists in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, FBI investigations, and other types of investigations of health professionals and providers. To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

In cases in which the health care professional has professional liability insurance or general liability insurance which provides coverage for such matters, we will seek to obtain coverage by your insurance company and will attempt to have your legal fees and expenses covered by your insurance company. If allowed, we will agree to take an assignment of your insurance policy proceeds in order to be able to submit our bills directly to your insurance company.

We also defend health professionals and health facilities in general litigation matters and business litigation matters.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or Toll-Free (888) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

About the Authors: Amanda I. Forbes, practices health law with The Health Law Firm in its Altamonte Springs, Florida, office. George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified in Health Law by The Florida Bar and is licensed in Louisiana, Florida, and the District of Columbia. He is President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm. Its main office is in Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com. The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave. Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620 or Toll Free: (888) 331-6620.

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“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2020 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

By |2020-10-01T17:18:25-04:00October 5th, 2020|Categories: In the News, Mental Health Law Blog|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |0 Comments

Certifying Emotional Support Animals and Protecting Your License, Part 1 of 2

Attorney Amanda I. ForbesBy Amanda I. Forbes, J.D., and George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified in Health Law

In today’s stress-filed world if you are a mental health counselor or other professional counselor, it is likely that you will encounter a client seeking to obtain an Emotional Support Animal (ESA)
designation letter from you. Providing such a letter may cause you to face complaints, licensing, and disciplinary actions driven by hostile landlords, homeowners associations, and business establishments that do not want any sort of animals on their premises. Often cases wind up in civil litigation. The client may also try to retaliate against you, should the client be the victim of legal problems because of attempting to keep an ESA and not understanding the legal ramifications.

However, you, as an experienced, licensed mental health professional must know what to do and not to do to protect your license and your career.

This is part 1 of 2 in a blog series regarding Emotional Support Animals. Stay tuned for part two. We also intend to do a follow-up blog series on working animals and how they are legally distinguished from ESAs.

Here are some tips to keep in mind should you decide to provide an ESA recommendation letter:

1. You must develop and document a properly established therapist-client relationship with the client prior to writing a recommendation–do whatever you would normally do for any other client seeking your help who walks in the door.

2. Confirm the actual, true identity of the client to be sure you know with whom you are dealing. Request and obtain at least two different forms of photo ID, one including a driver’s license for the equivalent. Check and verify the name and address on the Internet or with directory assistance. (I have a personal rule of thumb: “If you can’t find a person on the Internet, then he is a fake and does not exist”).

3. Obtain the client’s complete mental health history and medical history, requesting and obtaining other treater’s records just as you would do for any other client/patient.

4. If the client has been referred to you by another provider, especially one in a different medical or health specialty, request a written referral documenting the need for the referral to you.

5. Adequately and thoroughly make and document any decision that an ESA will benefit the client and help in treating any mental health symptoms. Be thorough and document it.

6. Assign a code from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, ed. 5 (DSM-5 ), to the patient, or obtain one from the patient’s regular treating psychiatrist, psychologist, or mental health therapist.

7. The most important element involved is to show that there is an actual medical necessity for the client to have an ESA or that there will be a therapeutic benefit for the client to have the ESA. If you cannot justify and document this, then do not approve the request.

8. Evaluate the ESA, preferably by an in-person meeting or tele-health conference, and determine that it will benefit the client, be sure to document this evaluation and comment on the weight, height, aggressiveness, and character of the ESA. It is most helpful to have a form the ESA’s veterinarian will complete, sign, and return to you for confirmation of this information and, perhaps, an indication that the animal is suitable in character. Keep this in your record.

9. Thoroughly document the above in your chart on the client.

10. Have a thorough knowledge of your state’s laws and professional licensing board’s regulations concerning ESAs. You might review past disciplinary cases in which counselors have received discipline relating to ESAs in your state.

Warning About Organizations that Target Mental Health Counselors, Psychoanalysts, and Professional Counselors Who Approve Emotional Support Animals.

Those mental health counselors, social workers, professional counselors, and therapists who are involved in the certification or approval of emotional support animals and working animals should be advised that there are a number of organizations and individuals out there who seek out and target those who certify or approve such animals. These organizations and individuals see many cases of abuse and improper certifications being used. They see individuals who appear to have no real medical need for such an animal “purchasing” such certifications. They view them as a merely “privileged” individual who merely buys such certification for their pet just so that can take the pet everywhere and garner attention for themselves.

Sometimes these organizations and individuals even pretend to be a patient seeking certification of an emotional support animal or a working animal. They do often contact counselors using fake names and pretending to be fake patients to see how far the therapist will go without even having a real patient. Then they file a complaint with the therapist’s professional board in an attempt to have disciplinary action taken against their license.

Therefore, it is imperative that you follow the tips mentioned in this article.

Guidance from the American Counseling Association:

The American Counseling Association (ACA) published a position paper titled: Emotional Support Animals-Human Animal Interactions in Counseling Interest Network Position Statement.

In that position paper the ACA stated:

As Licensed Professional Counselors, the assessment of DSM-5 diagnoses for human clients is within the scope of practice; however, the added practices of animal behavior, behavior assessment or Human-Animal Interventions are (most often) not. Emotional Support Animal may, in some specific circumstances, provide benefits to humans to minimize identified symptoms often associated with a DSM 5 diagnoses; however, because of the potential risks and unanticipated outcomes, the HAIC strongly suggests that counselors abstain from writing letters for persons seeking counseling or assessments for the sole purpose of obtaining an ESA recommendation letter.

Click here to read the ACA letter in full.

However, if the counselor already has an existing treating relationship with a client and the counselor is considering writing an ESA recommendation letter, then the ASA recommends:

[T]he counselor must have a thorough knowledge of the local, state, and federal laws and policies surrounding ESAs and appropriate knowledge, skills, and attitudes with the subject of therapeutic human-animal interactions before writing such a letter.

Click here to learn more.

The ACA also cautions:

The ACA’s Code of Ethics C.2.e Consultations on Ethical Obligations includes “taking reasonable steps with other counselors, the ACA Ethics and Professional Standards Department, or related professionals when they have questions regarding their ethical obligations or professional practice.” This may include working with animal trainers, behaviorists, or veterinary behaviorists to ensure that the clinician remains within their scope of practice. Since there is no overarching licensing or accrediting body for this matter, nor are there federal or state mandates at this time, the onus is on the clinician to ensure ethical practice.

https://www.unh.edu/sites/default/files/departments/student_accessibility_services_/aca.final_version_esa14556_002.pdf. (Emphasis added).

Don’t forget to read part 2 in this blog series to learn more.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced Investigations of Mental Health Counselors, Psychologists, Social Workers, and Family Therapists.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to mental health counselors, psychologists, social workers, and family therapists in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, FBI investigations and other types of investigations of health professionals and providers. To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

In cases in which the health care professional has professional liability insurance or general liability insurance which provides coverage for such matters, we will seek to obtain coverage by your insurance company and will attempt to have your legal fees and expenses covered by your insurance company. If allowed, we will agree to take an assignment of your insurance policy proceeds in order to be able to submit our bills directly to your insurance company.

We also defend health professionals and health facilities in general litigation matters and business litigation matters.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 or Toll-Free: (888) 331-6620, and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

GEORGE F. INDEST III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M.About the Authors: Amanda I. Forbes, practices health law with The Health Law Firm in its Altamonte Springs, Florida, office. George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified in Health Law by The Florida Bar and is licensed in Louisiana, Florida, and the District of Columbia. He is President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm. Its main office is in Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com. The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave. Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620 or Toll Free: (888) 331-6620.

KeyWords: Representation for healthcare professionals, representation for healthcare compliance, representation for healthcare facilities, healthcare facility defense lawyer, healthcare compliance defense attorney, healthcare license defense attorney, Complex Healthcare Litigation, complex healthcare litigation defense lawyer, Complex Business Litigation, Complex Commercial Litigation, Class Action Litigation, medical regulatory defense lawyer, representation for licensed mental health counselors (LMHCs), mental health counselor defense lawyer, licensed professional counselor (LPC) defense attorney lawyer, mental health counselor legal representation, licensed professional counselor (LPC) legal representation, social worker defense lawyer, representation for social workers, social worker defense attorney, social worker complaint cases, Florida Colorado Louisiana mental health counselor complaint cases, defense lawyer for psychologists, Florida health law defense attorney, medical license defense, Florida Department of Health (DOH) attorney, representation for Louisiana and Florida Department of Health (DOH) complaint investigations, Louisiana and Florida Department of Health (DOH) defense lawyer, Colorado Division of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) defense attorney, representation for Florida Colorado Division of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) complaint investigations, Colorado Division of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) defense lawyer, Lousiana LPC Board defense attorney lawyer, Health Law Firm reviews, reviews of The Health Law Firm attorneys, administrative complaint defense lawyer, administrative complaint defense attorney, administrative hearing defense lawyer, administrative hearing defense attorney, administrative hearing defense legal counsel, representation for health care professionals

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2020 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

By |2020-09-28T19:17:21-04:00September 28th, 2020|Categories: In the News, Mental Health Law Blog|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |0 Comments
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